By Kyle B
On Thanksgiving Day of 1998, my family and I flew up to Asheville, North Carolina, to say goodbye to my grandpa, who was dying of bone cancer. It was a tough day to say the least. Two years prior to that, the doctors had found early traces of the cancer and we all thought that it had been found early enough and that everything would be OK. Unfortunately, they gave him medicine that sped up the growth of the cancer instead of killing it in its infancy. In his mid 70's my grandpa was a very strong guy (how many men that age do you know that are still building churches with their bare hands?) and was about 6'1". When we came up to visit him that Thanksgiving, the cancer had attacked him so severely that he had shriveled up to less than 5' and probably weighed around 100 lbs. It was hard to look at him and not shudder in horror at what cancer can do to the human body, not to mention someone in your family.
My grandpa was an amazing man. He fits the description perfectly of a "Greatest Generation" guy: he grew up in the Depression with his dad abandoning him, his siblings and mom, joined the Navy at 18 to fight the Japanese in the South Pacific in WWII, went to college on the GI Bill after the War, was an all star 3rd baseman, and would have gone pro had he not blown out his knee. Instead, he spent the rest of his career defending the U.S. from the Soviet Union in missile defense and space technology. More importantly he was also a devoted follower of Jesus for most of his adult life, having come to know Christ at one of Billy Graham’s earlier Crusades out in Oregon in the early ‘50’s. I was very close with him and had a tremendous amount of respect for him personally, as well as for his walk with Christ and knowledge of the Bible.
That Thanksgiving we went to the hospice building where he had been staying for the last several months or so. Anyone who is familiar with the hospice system knows that several months is a pretty long time to be there, because it's a place you go for a short time to die comfortably. We were there visiting with him and my grandma for most of the day. As we were heading out to go back to the airport, my grandma yelled for us to come back because he was praying. We all were standing around the bedside and were straining to hear what he was saying because he could really only mumble due to the fact that the cancer had basically destroyed all the muscles in his throat. Then, all of a sudden as clear as day, his voice returned to normal for one sentence of the prayer: "I pray that Kyle and Conner (my younger brother) would grow strong in the Lord." After that he went right back to mumbling. At the same instant we all looked up at each other wide-eyed and in shock at what had just happened. At that moment it felt like I hit a brick wall and we all started crying our eyes out. In fact, it was the first time I had ever seen my Dad cry. I think I was dragged out of the room because I was such a wreck.
When we got to the car and started driving back to the airport, I lost it. I was so angry with God, that I started yelling at Him. How could such a good God allow someone to die in this terrible way, especially one who had dedicated most of his life to following him?! How could He do this to my family? After a little bit I calmed down and started to process it all. I started thinking about my grandpa, how, even going through this horrible dying experience, never complained once, yet actually thanked God every day for everything that He had given him and for giving him strength to honor Him in this last part of his life. He even was telling the nurses at the facility about Jesus! My grandpa had such peace, and it was incomprehensible to me. I then asked myself the question, "If that was me in his position, would I have the peace and trust in God that he had?" The answer was "obviously not". Though I had come to know Jesus when I was 5 years old, I did not really know who He was and certainly didn't have any interest to pursue Him further. I went to church every Sunday but was missing the whole point. God didn't want my attendance; He wanted my whole heart and a personal relationship. As I thought about this, it was as if God was saying to me, "Kyle, I have given you so much and I even died on the cross for you. What are you doing? You call yourself a Christian and yet what is so different about your life from someone else's who doesn't know Me?" Obviously I didn't hear an audible voice from God, but it might as well have been a megaphone right next to my ear. I recognized right there that I was not walking with the Lord and confessed that to Him and rededicated my life to Him and told Him I wanted the peace and the relationship with Him that my grandpa had.
It's been almost 12 years since that happened and I look back on that day as one of the toughest, yet sweetest days of my life. Nothing magical happened at that moment like angels singing or anything like that, but God did start working on my heart immediately. I had never had a desire to read the Bible, yet somehow I couldn't put it down. I had never had a desire to tell others about Jesus, yet I had this desire all of a sudden to tell people about Jesus' love for them. Though that was over a decade ago, the beautiful thing about a relationship with the living God is that the story doesn’t end when you come to know Him; it just begins. I'm living proof that if you humbly come to God and seek to know Him, He will reveal Himself to you and that you too can have a personal relationship with Him.